Sep 112014

In a recent article in the New York Times, Nick Bilton relates the story of learning that Steve Jobs had not allowed his children to use the iPad.

“So, your kids must love the iPad?” I asked Mr. Jobs, trying to change the subject. The company’s first tablet was just hitting the shelves. “They haven’t used it,” he told me. “We limit how much technology our kids use at home.”

Bilton goes on to discuss how he learned that quite a few tech presidents and CEOs had similar limitations for their children.

Evan Williams, a founder of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, and his wife, Sara Williams, said that in lieu of iPads, their two young boys have hundreds of books (yes, physical ones) that they can pick up and read anytime.

He then discusses some strategies for limiting tech access by age.

Children under 10 seem to be most susceptible to becoming addicted, so these parents draw the line at not allowing any gadgets during the week. On weekends, there are limits of 30 minutes to two hours on iPad and smartphone use. And 10- to 14-year-olds are allowed to use computers on school nights, but only for homework.

As I said in a comment on this article, I thank Mr. Bilton for this report. It’s important to understand, as Steve Jobs did, that starting early with high-powered technology does not a child-genius technology whiz make in adulthood. And, never has it been more urgent for parents and educators to recognize how today-much more than ever before, children’s knowledge, attitudes, values, interests, and behavior run the risk of being controlled by their experiences with the popular media culture and screens, instead of being actively created by children themselves and/or the adults closest to them. Almost 90 percent of teachers report they believe that digital technologies are creating an easily distracted generation with short attention spans as well as other worrisome trends. I have spent years researching and writing on this impact and urge all parents and educators to make themselves aware of the influence today’s media environment can have on young children’s development and to make very careful choices about how they let it into their lives.